Tim Croce’s New York Times crossword — Matt’s review
Matt here again, guest-blogging an NYT freestyle puzzle for the second time in six days, and for the same reason (Amy’s internet is down again).
This one I enjoyed rather less than Saturday’s. I have nothing against triple-stacks, but they’re so commonplace now that I can’t give constructors much leeway just because they’ve created triple-stacks. I still need to see some high-value letters and interesting phrases, and here I’m afraid this puzzle falls short.
Judge for yourself. The six are:
1-a [“Hold on, why am I being dragged into this?”] which is a long way to go for the not-too-familiar WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE?
16-a [Last single blasts?] for BACHELOR PARTIES. The entry itself is good, but I’ve never understood clues like this. The words “Last single blasts” do not play off any base phrase that I can see, so what is point of the question mark? Just put the clue with no question mark and that’s it. It’s not like extremely unusual meanings of any of the three words are being used.
17-a [Unlikely to develop clothing lines?] = CREASE-RESISTANT. Hard to come up with a duller 15-letter entry than this, and only one of its letters is worth more than one point in Scrabble. And again with the inexplicable question mark in the clue; using two different meanings of the word “line,” which has dozens of familiar meanings, does not constitute wordplay requiring a question mark.
53-a [Does some flattering] = MASSAGES ONE’S EGO. I have a few problems with this. First, far too many grid-spanners in triple-stacks use ONE’S in a phrase, period. It should count as .1 off by now. A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE, for example, is openly mocked now by many constructors because it appears so often.
Second, in addition to the frequency with which constructors use these ONE’S entries, they’re also subpar in my book because YOUR is much more commonly used in most of these cases; for instance, “take your time” is heard more often than “take one’s time” unless you’re watching “Downton Abbey.” I suspect these ONE’S entries appear so often because they are database entries culled from online dictionaries.
Finally, in not infrequent cases, “someone’s” is more correct than “one’s” as is the situation here. “Mind one’s manners” means you mind your own manners and “take one’s time” means you take your own time, but “massages one’s ego” means you massage someone else’s ego, so it wants the “someone’s.”
60-a [Poke on Facebook, say] is a vivid clue for ATTENTION-GETTER. A fine phase in its own right, but one point from being as un-Scrabbly as a 15-letter crossword entry can be.
And finally, 61-a [Relaxes] for RESTS ON ONE’S OARS. I certainly don’t like one ONE’S, but to have two in one triple-stack is a dealbreaker for me. And a dull phrase to boot, this one with zero letters not worth one point in Scrabble.
Wow, I’m complaining a lot. But I also didn’t even finish the middle area, as you can see from the grid at right. I quit after 18 minutes. Had the EGGS of 32-a but thought the beginning was a creature of some kind. Never heard of ARMY WORMS and not sure DEMIT is a word I knew.
Also, the clue for 52-d is wrong: [Old 58-Down capital] is BONN and 58-d was GER., but Bonn was only the capital of W. GER., never GER.
Some nice things: JOEY RAMONE, THAT’S OKAY, full name NIA LONG, tricky 7-d clue of [Pennsylvania city or its county] where I’m sure you put ERIE in there instead of the correct YORK just like I did.
Nice little misdirect there, but a grid like this is made or broken with its 15’s and I didn’t dig these much, nor their crossing fill (HAR/OLEOS/ERST/JACAMAR (?!)/EIN/SOO/ETA/GER/ORS). 2.65 stars.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Toodle-oo List”- Sam Donaldson’s review
It’s the end of the work week, so many folks are getting ready to say goodbye for the weekend. Patrick Blindauer offers us a helpful cheat-sheet filled with various expressions meaning “goodbye.” As if it’s not enough to have six of them in the grid, each is clued with yet another variant of “goodbye,” bringing us to 12 total expressions–enough to last for three months of work weeks!
I’m not very good at goodbyes, but let’s see if I can at least recite the theme entries:
- 17-Across: [“Bye!”] and AU REVOIR.
- 23-Across: [“Ciao!”] and FARE THEE WELL.
- 32-Across: [“Ta-ta!”] and ARRIVEDERCI. I wasn’t confident with the spelling on this one, so thank you, crossings!
- 42-Across: [“Until we meet again!”] and SEE YOU LATER.
- 48-Across: [“So long!”] and
THANKS FOR ALL THE FISHHASTA LA VISTA.
- 61-Across: [“Sayonara!”] and PEACE OUT.
A steady diet of this kind of theme would get old fast, but in small doses it has a certain quirkiness that adds a lot of charm. I’ll take it!
Six theme entries don’t leave much room for elegance in the fill. Sure enough, there are some short clunkers here you don’t normally see in one of Patrick’s puzzles (like ADV, EPI, ETDS, ENV, and MME). But some of the shorter fill also felt notably fresh: DEV [Patel of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Newsroom”], SKOR candy bars, PIG STY (the [Digs in the mud?]), RSS FEEDS, and even the quirky PLACEMAT.
Favorite entry = CICADA, the [Noisy summer bug]. Favorite clue = the aforementioned [Digs in the mud?] for PIG STY
David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
It’s Wacky-style Friday again, and today’s phrases come courtesy of Canada’s David Poole! David has gone the subtraction route [since the blogger is South African and the constructor Canadian, you are requested to pronounce this “root”] today, generally considered much harder to make work than your typical letter addition theme. For some reason, it’s harder to achieve “amusingly wacky”. Considering this, I think David gave us a good puzzle, which kept me amused, even after figuring out the gimmick pretty quickly! If you haven’t yet, the PIEDPIPER has played his tune and led away all the rats to their death. Of course, in the second act, Mr. Piper steals all the town’s children, but that part isn’t represented in the puzzle, maybe if you find David’s earlier Sunday draft…
So we have:
- 17a, [Bolshevik film festival fodder?], R(RAT)EDMOVIES. Alliterative clues are always a plus!
- 21/51a, [Puerto Rico pecan and Cuban coconut custard?], PI(RAT)ESOFTHE/CARIBBEAN. More alliteration!
- 26a, [Auden’s vineyard], THEGRAPESOFWH. Clever change-up, reducing WRATH to a MERE WH!
- 46A, [Side dish made with russets and Tanqueray?], POTATOESAUGIN. Can some brave soul try and make this dish and report back to us? Cos I can’t imagine it being even remotely palatable!
So… 62 theme squares, that’s a lot for any constructor to dish up onto their plate! Despite that, David has managed to squeeze in quite a lot of fun fill. That said, there was also some less desirable short stuff, but the fun answers more than paid their dues, IMO.
I’m going to do the normal listing thing now, highlighting my favourites as I go…
- On being confronted with 1a, I knew “That’s a trap!” The clue [Socks for Clinton, e.g.] could either be caT or PET. A cunning way to start the puzzle!
- 4a, [Mums’ relatives, in a way], GLADS. Wonderful clue… Florist’s slang for chrysanthemums and gladioli!
- 15a, [Petrol purchase], LITRE. Non-US answer!
- 40a, [Montreal moniker], NOM. Another Canadian nod, eh.
- 42a, [Gym ball], PROM. Saturday tough mis-direction. Great clue!
- 45a, [Doctor of music?], DRE. No one could ever accuse crossword constructors of forgetting about Dre!
- 57a, [“The Kiss” painter], KLIMT. His name looks cool in the grid!
- 64a, [It’s often stored upside-down], CANOE. Another nice clue!
- 9d, [Unrepeated event, in Essex], ONEOFF. Perfectly normal idiom here too, though I take it not Stateside.
- 10d, [Roared], GUFFAWED. Long one-word answer, but still adding colour to the grid.
- 30d, [Ecuadoran province named for its gold production], EL ORO. I’ve seen this answer before. I don’t think much of it at all. It’s inferrable, I’ll give it that.
- 39d, [Cyberface], EMOTICON. Good answer!
- 41d, [Nutty], CRACKPOT. Another one!
- 55d, [Yorkshire river], AIRE. Don’t confuse it with the OUSE!
That’s all I’ve got for you today. I’d give it a 3.75-star rating: lots of theme, surprisingly popping grid, tempered by some short clunkers.